TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
In discussing the recent special session of the Kentucky Legislature, State Representative Regina Bunch told the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, “We finally got the job done, but it was not without its problems.”
Bunch spoke to the chamber during their monthly luncheon meeting, held at the Corbin Center. And during that time, the Williamsburg Republican who represents the 82nd House District said the special session wasn’t so special in redistricting.
“They passed it. But I voted ‘no.’” I was one of those who voted no, because I thought Laurel County was treated fairly on redistricting. It was confusing with what they did to the county,” she noted.
Bunch’s 82nd District is made up of all of Whitley County, and some of southern Laurel County, including unincorporated North Corbin. Parts of the 85th, 86th, 89th and 90th House Districts are also in Laurel County, according to the new House redistricting map.
“Special sessions are something that bother us, because when we have to be called back in a special session, we see a lot of wasted time. We’re hopeful we can resolve some issues in the 2014 regular session,” she said about the upcoming session in Frankfort this winter.
During her speech, Bunch mentioned the regular session probably would be a quiet one, but could also be heated at times.
“I don’t see any controversy in 2014, because it’s an election year. And because it’s an election year, the legislature won’t rock the boat, except possibly on the budget. Sara Beth Gregory won’t be in our district next year, but Robert Stivers will be, in 2014. If he challenges me on the little problem Corbin has with Knox County, I’ll let him know,” she stated.
Because of redistricting in the State Senate, Whitley County will be moved out of Gregory’s 16th District. Instead, Whitley will be included with Knox, Clay, Owsley, Lee and Wolfe counties in Stivers’ 25th District.
When a person in the audience asked about the outlook for the coal industry in the state, Bunch brought up the scene in the Nation’s Capital.
“It seems like everything we start forward in Kentucky, demons in Washington move a step ahead. Hopefully, we as a state can find a way to make a change, and drive coal back the way it was.”
Looking towards Frankfort, coal — along with the budget and other issues — were subjects to be looked at during the General Assembly’s regular session.
“The loss of the coal market brings a huge domino effect. We’ve been told to expect a fourth of the coal money that we normally get,” referring to the money raised by the state’s coal severance tax. Bunch added, “One panel described Kentucky’s economy in 2014 as ‘Optimistically Uncertain.’ It remains if the budget will be ‘Slight’ or on the upturn.”
She was also asked about the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect last Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of people who support it. I just can’t understand anyone who can defend Obamacare. I’ve heard a lot of working people call and say they’ve seen an increase in the price of their insurance,” she told the person asking the question.
Bunch was also questioned from the audience about another topic of interest, casino gambling. She replied, “I see the positives of revenue, but I see the problems for families.”
Bunch said among some of the bills that could be addressed next winter in Frankfort include the pension plan, a local option sales tax, a bill making changes in the state’s eminent domain law for pipelines, the growing of industrial hemp and the legalization of medical marijuana.
She commented the local option sales tax was now in Ohio, and would create a temporary source of funding which would end after the tax is done. Bunch also said more tweaking on the pension plan is possible from the General Assembly. On the legalizing of medical marijuana, she said, “I’m almost certain I will not support it, unless there’s something I don’t know that’s in that bill. … In Frankfort, you have to see the good and the bad. And you try to do the best you can.”
Towards the end of her remarks, Bunch spoke of the recent sexual harassment scandal which brought down the head of the director of the Legislative Research Commission, Bobby Sherman last month.
“I just see it as snowballing. The head of the LRC was named in a coverup, and so was the House Speaker. … There continues to be money spent on political gain. Until we’re willing to stand together, there is way too much slack in the purse strings, and we need a little common sense,” she said.